Program Goals/Target Population
Minneapolis Hot Spots Experiment was a targeted policing program with the goal of preventing and reducing overall crime in high-crime areas in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In order to deter criminal activity, the Minneapolis Police Department utilized strategies to identify "hot spots" of crime and increase police presence in these areas. The strategies implemented by the program were intended to provide a general deterrent effect in high-crime areas.
The program focused on small clusters of high-crime addresses, rather than entire patrol beats or neighborhoods. These were known as “hot spots” of crime, and were identified based on the frequency of calls for service to the area. Officers from the Minneapolis Police Department provided intensive patrol services to the high-crime areas of Minneapolis. The program focused on increasing police presence in “hot spots” of crime, rather than the specific activities conducted by officers during patrols. The implementation of the strategy depended on the cooperation of the entire police force; this was facilitated using briefings, pizza parties, and the distribution of t-shirts with the program’s logo.
The Hot Spots Experiment was based on the idea that increased police presence can effectively reduce criminal activity. This theory was applied by focusing law enforcement efforts in high-crime areas identified as “hot spots” of crime. The idea was that since the highest amounts of crime were concentrated in selected geographic regions, increasing police presence specifically in these areas would produce substantial reductions in crime. The program used a proactive policing strategy to prevent crimes from occurring, as opposed to a reactive strategy that makes arrests after a crime has already been committed. Overall, this strategy was based on the general theory of deterrence; that the mere presence of law enforcement in an area will deter offenders from committing crime.
Citizen Calls to Police
When Sherman and Weisburd (1995) compared calls from citizens in the year preceding the experiment to calls made during the 12 months of the experiment, a dramatic difference was observed. Regardless of which cutoff date was selected, the increase in citizen calls to police in the 55 control hot spots was considerably greater than in the 55 experimental hot spots. The majority of the calls to police were soft crime calls, and over the span of the entire year the increase in soft crime calls was 75 percent greater for the control group than for the experimental group. The overall effects of total crime calls were similar, since soft crime calls accounted for most of the total calls.
There were significant differences between experimental and control groups for the observed disorder outcome. For the entire treatment period, there was a significant relative difference of 25 percent less disorder for the experimental group than for the control group. For the two periods with the highest integrity (ending June 15 and July 31), the control group had twice as much observed disorder as the experimental group had. The results were found to be statistically significant, regardless of time period studied.
Overall, the effects of the experiment on preventing crime were found to be modest, but consistent. From these results, Sherman and Weisburd concluded that increases in police presence have a moderate deterrent effect on crime, and that the difference in crime is proportionate to the amount of police presence.